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Gary Bettman, Rob Manfred and ILR Dean Harry Katz

ILR held "Contract Negotiation in Professional Sports," a talk by Gary Bettman '74, left, and Rob Manfred '80, center, for students, alumni and others in December 2013 at Major League Baseball headquarters in New York City. At right is ILR Dean Harry Katz. Photo: Jesse Winter Photography.

Alum named Major League Baseball's next commissioner

Robert Manfred '80 credits his Cornell ILR School education with preparing him for Major League Baseball's management pinnacle.

Rob Manfred and Joe Torre

Manfred, left, and Joe Torre, executive vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball, at an MLB employee Ice Bucket Challenge Aug. 20. Photo: MLB Photos via Getty Images Sport.

Known as "Rob," Manfred was named Aug. 14 to succeed Bud Selig as baseball's commissioner. Selig is expected to retire in January.

As a teen, Manfred went from Rome Free Academy in the foothills of the Adirondacks to LeMoyne College, where he parlayed his high school tennis MVP skills into a berth on the team.

Manfred transferred to Cornell as a junior. After graduating from the ILR School and Harvard Law School, he joined the Morgan, Lewis and Bockius law firm and then went to work at MLB in 1988.

At MLB, Manfred has played key roles in advancing drug testing and in steering contract negotiations away from a decades-long pattern of work stoppages. According to The New York Times, "… he proceeded to maintain relative harmony between the owners and players as an executive vice president in charge of labor relations. He also spearheaded the league's increasing efforts to address players' use of performance-enhancing drugs."

A few months after being promoted in 2013 as MLB's chief operating officer, Manfred was interviewed for an ILR story, saying: "The single biggest skill I gained at ILR is the ability to negotiate. I have been an effective negotiator because I was well trained in how to get ready to bargain -- not only collectively bargain, but negotiate generally. And I am very rigorous to this day about that kind of preparation," he said.

Gary Bettman, Rob Manfred and ILR Dean Harry Katz

From left, Bettman, Manfred and Katz at the December 2013 event in New York City. Photo: Jesse Winter Photography

That training helps Manfred negotiate changes in the MLB culture.

"Previously, the clubs viewed each contract negotiation as an opportunity to solve all their problems. My goal was to impart to the clubs that collective bargaining is an incremental process,"he said, "and that the way you reform your economics is by putting bricks in place in each negotiation over a period of time."

After that happened, "We've been able to deliver significant economic change contract by contract, without the labor disruptions we'd had in the past."

The ILR School sends a number of graduates and student interns into professional sports. Gary Bettman '74 has been commissioner of the National Hockey League since 1993. To see a video of Bettman and Manfred, go to Path to Professional Sports.

Mary Catt, MPS '14, is assistant director of communications for the ILR School.

Manfred takes ice bucket challenge

On Aug. 20, Manfred kicked off an MLB employee Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised more than $16,000 for the National ALS Association. Photo: MLB Photos via Getty Images Sport.

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